Ragged Dick: Or, Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks

by

Horatio Alger

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Ragged Dick: Or, Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks: Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Nine months pass, during which Fosdick receives a raise at his job and Dick continues to have remarkable success as a shoeshine boy. His bank account, which he has not taken from since purchasing Fosdick’s wardrobe, now contains over one hundred dollars.
This passage reveals that both boys have displayed responsibility and dedication to bettering their circumstances in the intervening months.
Themes
The Power of Thrift Theme Icon
Fortune Favors the Industrious Theme Icon
Clothes Make the Man Theme Icon
The Value of Education Theme Icon
Dick’s studies have also improved. Now he can read quite well in addition to writing and doing arithmetic. Indeed, Fosdick tells him, Dick now knows as much as his tutor. The narrator asserts that such progress is due to Dick’s being so “earnest in his desire to improve.” Fosdick tells Dick that he is ready to find a new job (and a better apartment).
Dick’s learning happens at such a rapid pace that the narrator is forced to explain to the reader (likely a schoolboy himself) that it’s made possible only by Dick’s unique drive; hard work is again equated with success.
Themes
The Power of Thrift Theme Icon
The Value of Education Theme Icon
A few days later, Dick encounters Tom Wilkins, another bootblack about Dick’s age. Tom’s mother has broken her arm and is unable to work, and the family—including Tom’s younger siblings—are facing eviction since Tom cannot earn enough money on his own to pay the rent.
Tom serves as the only bootblack with something akin to a normal family. However, while he has a home and siblings, he still lacks a father—which seems to be the essential ingredient to staving off homelessness.
Themes
The Power of Thrift Theme Icon
Fortune Favors the Industrious Theme Icon
Dick quickly agrees to pay the family’s rent, a total of four dollars, even though Tom admits that he’ll never be able to pay the amount back. Dick doesn’t have the full amount needed on him, however, and has to return home to get his savings account passbook. The narrator notes that, upon his arrival, he will be disagreeably surprised.
Dick’s generosity is extreme here, again revealing that he has not grown greedy despite his newfound success. His attempt to do a good deed, however, will soon unravel, as the ominous foreshadowing at the end of the chapter notes.
Themes
The Power of Thrift Theme Icon
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